THE new Blade Runner movie will be a total gift to yourself. It’s nearly three hours of mind-bending visuals and heart-shivering emotions. However, for all its dateline of “2049” – and like all the best SF – it’s hardly an act of escapism from the present.

No major plot spoilers, I will try my best (and if you’re nervous, of course, file this away till you’ve watched it). But I do want to explore how both movies illuminate the bigger future trends we’re facing.

One of the originalities of the first Blade Runner was its 2019 vision of the future – only two years away! – not as something brightly chromed or smoothed off, but as gritty, crumbly, rainy and smoggy. It was the nighttime LA of Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett – except now in the daytime too, with levitating police cars and giant video boards in Japanese.

But climate-wise, something was evidently afoot. Remember that sublime release at the end of the original Blade Runner, when the fleeing lovers Deckard and Rachel steered their sky-car towards those bright, snow-covered mountains?

The planet is now 30 years on. And as 2049’s opening credits make clear, an obscure climate catastrophe has brought permanent snow to Los Angeles itself. A global food collapse has also driven the development of vast “protein” farms, covering the Californian deserts, breeding vats of squirming insects. There’s no clear blue skies any more, only endless canopies of grey or (when we get to a ruined Las Vegas) rusty red.

So straight away we’re in the realm of science fiction – as William Gibson might put it – which is aimed at stopping things happening, rather than starting things happening. Blade Runner 2049 renders a world where the anthropocene (the era where we primarily shape the planet’s climate) and geo-engineering (the means by which we do this) are completely dominant. And it’s hardly glorious: we are in a huddling, dependent, authoritarian, vista-less universe.

At least if we’re only talking about this world, that is – broken wee terra firma. One of themes from the original Blade Runner which the sequel develops is the idea that human civilisation is spreading to other planets.

But then, as both movies urgently and poignantly ask, what do we mean by “human” anyway? The replicant Roy Batty’s famous soliloquy at the end of the original Blade Runner – “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate” – evokes his more-than-human powers marvellously, in the context of space exploration.

In 2049, the crazed mogul Niander Wallace - who produces much more obedient replicants than his murdered predecessor Tyrell – wants to put these creatures at the service of his colonisation of space. “We have only taken seven planets – children can count these on their fingers. We have an infinity of them to take!”

So far, so Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Stephen Hawking, who speculate constantly in public about stretching to the stars (or at least the near planets).

But Blade Runner 2049 solves the big problem which undermines our current space fever. Standard-issue humans are probably too puny – mentally, emotionally or physiologically – to withstand the irradiating and isolating rigours of regular interplanetary travel, even within our solar system.

So maybe space should be reserved, as Roy Batty’s memories would suggest, for a more evolved and adapted humanoid creature than us.

The results coming from the bio-labs about the editability and manipulability of human genes get ever more shiver-inducing. But I can easily imagine the “yuk factor” of human genetic engineering being overcome by the heroic necessities of space travel. We won’t just need the “right stuff”, as Tom Wolfe put it, but “better” and “different” stuff

The first Blade Runner was overly ambitious in its vision of rogue replicants scurrying everywhere in 2019. But I’m pretty confident the new movie will be right about 2049, where we will see an evolving class of “speciated” post-humans.

The eternal question for SF is whether these mind-blowing biological or technological futures exist under the same tedious old power-relations. The cliche is readily to hand: gilded elites and huddled masses, powerful corporations and enfeebled (or non-existent) democracies.

The original Blade Runner fell in with the gloomy, dystopian political norm of most cinematic SF. The back-story of the new movie does at least hint that something more than individual rebellion is possible.

Yet Blade Runner 2049 grimly (and depressingly) speculates about how far our current technological subjection – to surveillance, algorithms, whatever – might go.

The “hero” of the new movie is a replicant police officer, who abandons his serial number to call himself “Joe K” (hello Kafka fans). He undergoes a daily psychology test to establish his “Post-Trauma Baseline”. It involves instant reaction to chosen words from the verse in Nabokov’s Pale Fire (“Cells,” “Interlinked,” “A Tall White Fountain Played”). Not even great literature escapes from the Matrix of control.

The new movie’s strongest emotional chord is the same as the last one: the love that emerges between two entities, one (or maybe both?) of them artificial. It turns out that Joe K, as a replicant, has “a preference for the virtual girls”, as one replicant prostitute puts it.

And indeed, Joe does share his grimy home life with Joi, an artificially-intelligent holographic projection. She is every women he needs her to be – homemaker, bohemian hipster, geisha girl. And even physical lover, in one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen in movie SF.

There are even deeper tugs of love and identity in Blade Runner 2049. But what Joe and Joi’s relationship extrapolates is a feature of what we’re currently undergoing with our social media. Which is the ability of the info-corporations to read our character and anticipate our motivations – and this based on the vast amounts of data that our interactions with the likes of Facebook and Google generate.

As Yuval Noah Harari outlines in his still-bestselling Homo Deus, what happens when you are known by these super-surveillant machines better than you know yourself? Better even than your loved ones know you? Might you begin to entrust responsibility for major decisions in your life to these intelligences?

One of the comforts of both Blade Runner movies is that they push back on this entanglement of emotion and machines, seeking some ground between them. The historian Edward Luttwak once quipped that “everything that we value in human life is within the realm of inefficiency – love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits, comfortable old shoes”.

Blade Runner has a winning nostalgia for such old, good, analogue things. That leery old tenor sax from the 1982 movie soundtrack is playing in my mind right now. And delighting me to my core, Frank Sinatra appears twice in this new movie - once as soundtrack, once as hologram. Hard whisky is drunk, carved wooden horses are treasured by moody replicants. There is talk of how souls come to be born.

Even this move - where we cling onto the dusty artefacts of the past, as powerful technologies make everything potentially mutable – is completely of our times (and not deserving of contempt, either). What might the middle position be? Where the potentials of the future are harnessed to the consistencies of history, by a conscious and empowered human community?

Some of us have been interested in Scottish independence, and the advanced governance it promises, as exactly this middle position, for many years. And it’s worth noting that Scotland has an SF tradition – notably Iain M Banks and Ken McLeod – which allows democracy and solidarity to be as much a driver of the future as any other. We await their blockbusters with interest (though more in hope than certainty).

But Blade Runner 2049 is as good a torchlight to cast about in the near future as any other you might find this weekend. Enjoy, thrill and ponder.